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tv   Nightline  ABC  May 30, 2013 12:35am-1:06am PDT

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minute, hour bigger, better stronger, power ♪ ♪ i got that power ♪ i got that power ♪ i got that power, power, power, power ♪ ♪ they call me will.a stay so cool i'm chilli i done made that maley ♪ ♪ on my way to that valet used to have a ticket thing but now i got that bigger bank ♪ ♪ who, who cares what the haters state they hate on me 'cause we doing what they can't ♪ ♪ i stay on that hustle i flex that mental muscle hate to bust your bubble i'm on that other level ♪ ♪ imma take it higher and high and high and higher i stay and buy attire ♪ ♪ keeping burning like that fire oh i'm alive i'm alive i'm alive ♪
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♪ and oh i can fly i can fly i can fly ♪ ♪ and oh i'm alive i'm alive i'm alive ♪ ♪ and i'm loving every second, minute, hour, bigger, better, stronger, power ♪ ♪ i got that power ♪ i got that power ♪ i got that power, power, power, power, ♪ [ cheers and applause ] >> jimmy:! this is his album "will power." it's out now. i want to thank tobey maguire, kerry washington. i want to thank will. i want to apologize to matt damon. thank you for watching. "nightline" is next. good night!
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tonight on "nightline," untouchable. is this ex-mobster turned fbi informant back to his life of crime? >> you need to get the [bleep] out of here. >> you know the allegations against yourself. >> i don't care. >> why a man with such a long rap sheet is allowed to live the high life. in a "nightline" investigation, we are there as the feds finally raid his offices in a bust that could end an alleged crime. and dare devil, a stunt like you've never seen, this rugs dare devil takes to the highest mountain to set a world record that will make your heart drop. >> this special edition of that will make your heart drop. >> this special edition of "nightline," a mobster, a
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this is a special edition of "nightline," a mobster, a murder, and the fbi. >> thanks for being with us tonight, i am bill weir. we have the story of a russian mobster turned fbi informant turned floridian playboy, accused in aiding in the murder of a rap star. it sounds like a pulp novel plot, a startling piece of unraveling nonfiction, complete with fast cars, violence, back room deals. here to tell it, abc's chief investigative correspondent, brian ross. >> reporter: this is a story about a murder, the murder of an atlanta rapper called lil phat. ♪ >> i termed it assassination. >> reporter: about a high living russian mobster turned fbi
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informant. mani chulpayev, accused in the murder of lil phat, something he strongly denies. >> there's no reason to be afraid of me. i am the nicest guy you ever meet. >> reporter: about the fbi agent who was chulpayev's handler, donte jackson, now under investigation by the fbi itself, after allegations he obstructed the murder case while receiving extravagant gifts from his informants. >> it is nice to have an fbi agent that's looking over your shoulder i guess. >> reporter: our abc news "nightline" investigation began months ago in fort lauderdale, a place where people come to have fun, and where a party van cruising down a1a seemed to fit in, which is why we chose to use it. as the perfect cover for an undercover surveillance team to get footage of chulpayev, we were told was involved in a huge
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criminal operation, a man with a well documented record of ruthless violence as a russian mafia boss in new york. >> beat up people, had terrorist mindset, threatening, extorting, kidnapping, torturing people. >> reporter: this lawyer came to know him well when he cross-examined him about his crimes. >> reporter: how bad was he? >> scale of one to ten, probably 100. young women, held captive, family held if they weren't prostitutes. >> reporter: he could be serving life in prison or deported to russia, but he is not. instead, we found him leading a life of luxury and fancy cars in south florida. one day in a red ferrari, the next a silver mercedes, the next, top of the line range rover. all thanks to the fbi and federal prosecutors who again
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and again protected him as an informant and government witness. >> he is very smart. he managed to play the system for years and years. >> i need these people out of here now. >> as we found when we first approached him, mani chulpayev is not somebody that likes to be challenged. >> we are abc news. >> i don't care who you are. >> you know the allegations against you. >> i don't care about that. i don't answer to you. >> the same arrogance, same tough guy. >> you need to get the [bleep] out of my property now. >> reporter: a few weeks later, saw the other side of chulpayev as he invited us back for a spin around town in a black sports car. >> my father, he had hopes. >> reporter: amidst almost $2 million of luxury cars, including a half million dollar rolls royce, chulpayev set out to talk his way out of his
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latest troubles and allegations, that protected by the fbi, he returned to his violent criminal ways. >> reporter: how can we rely on anything you say? >> how can you rely, i stand behind what i say. >> reporter: you have lied a lot. >> i have lied to the government, yes. >> reporter: were you a thug, fair to say? >> i wasn't a thug, i was not afraid. that's two different things. >> reporter: chulpayev came to the united states in 1989 as a 12-year-old. >> 16 years old, had my first mercedes-benz, you know, i went to school just to show off. not to study. >> reporter: by his own later admission in a national geographic documentary, the teenage hoodlum became an organized crime terror in new york making millions of dollars. >> reporter: so i have my background straight, what have you been convicted of? >> i was convicted of running, you know, being in organized crime group back in the day. >> reporter: arson? >> arson?
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>> reporter: kidnapping? extortion? convicted as one of the men behind the arson that destroyed this huge super market. to avoid a long prison term, chulpayev made a deal and rat out his partners in crime. >> reporter: you were convicted of crimes could have put you in prison for life. >> yes. >> reporter: could have let to deportation. none of that happened. >> of course. >> reporter: why? you took the fbi's way out? >> i took my way out. >> reporter: at the time, they said chulpayev was one of the most important witnesses ever against the russian mob. >> see the wording? >> reporter: despite his tattoo, the fbi informant says he does have one regret. given your background, did it bother you to be known as a snitch, as a rat? >> of course, still bothers me. >> reporter: but you are.
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but it worked, after his testimony he was set free, moved to atlanta, promised protection by the fbi. that was 2002. >> who was the atlanta man hiding these stolen cars? >> reporter: years later he was back to criminal ways, caught in a luxury stolen car ring, operating in georgia, south carolina, ohio. he was arrested, convicted, served less than three years because he agreed to testify against others in the stolen car ring. >> reporter: how many strikes do you deserve? >> one strike. >> reporter: you got one strike then a second strike. >> okay, so i got lucky. >> reporter: that was 2005. fast forward to this year, and again, allegations it is the same old story with chulpayev. back to his criminal ways, selling stolen cars and worse with victims saying he was still being protected by the government. >> he is just -- he is untouchable. >> reporter: one of many alleged victims we heard about, travis
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jones and his wife elizabeth say he cheated them by selling them a stolen car. not only was jones briefly taken into custody for driving a stolen car, but he's out $10,000 cash he says he gave chulpayev. >> you can't drive it. >> no. >> reporter: when jones filed a police report in his hometown of roswell, georgia, he says he was told by local police their hands were tied, that the fbi was protecting chulpayev. >> they told me that he is involved with other agencies and that they're using him right now and that he can't be arrested. >> he is being protected. >> reporter: when the abc station in atlanta, wsb tv did a story about chulpayev and the alleged stolen car raid earlier this year, reporter jim strickland says he got an unusual call from the fbi in atlanta, just a half hour after this confrontation with chulpayev at his business.
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>> i have been doing this 32 years, never happened before. has to tell you something. >> reporter: what does it tell you? >> tells me that mani was in ter woven with the fbi in atlanta deeply enough to make one phone call and they're instantly calling me to find out exactly what the story is. >> reporter: turns out that the story is that a criminal the fbi twice helped keep out of prison is now accused of felony murder, something we learned only after this interview. >> you were a serious criminal, connected to russian organized crime. you testified for the fbi. they put you back on the street and you broke the law again. that's the record. >> okay. so what's the point? >> reporter: the point is, you have criminal ways that don't seem to go away. >> that's not true. that's not true. i'm just smarter than you and that's it. i'm an average guy that thinks ahead. and that's what it is. and people can't stand that. stupid people can't stand that. smart people, they work with me.
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>> reporter: as we saw. >> they're going in. >> reporter: heavily armed federal agents and police swarmed into his florida business. chulpayev may not be quite as smart as he thinks he is. when we come back. [ female announcer ] you told us you love it, really, really love it, and we listened. that's why jcpenney is the only place to find st. john's bay. we know you want clothes that fit your style, and fit -- you. and since we've made every piece 30% off, now it even fits your budget. st. john's bay... timeless style that fits you perfectly. you found it. now go live your life in it. come by jcpenney for the st. john's bay sale.
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if you saw his car speed by on the streets of florida, you may think that mani chulpayev may be a music producer, perhaps a well healed hedge fund magnet.
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only the most cynical among us are staunch movie fans would suspect he is a criminal accused of conspiring to kill a rap star. we return to abc's chief investigative correspondent brian ross in a case that's truly stranger than fiction. >> reporter: as we rode around fort lauderdale, the man behind the wheel, mani chulpayev, was doing all he could to persuade me he was no longer a ruthless russian mobster protected by the fbi. >> don't just slam somebody because of my past, don't use my past as a wild card, you know what i mean? >> reporter: at his luxury car business, he denied he was dealing in stolen cars or doing anything illegal. can you sit here now and say you're not involved in any on-going criminal activity? >> most definitely. >> reporter: nothing whatsoever? only a few weeks later, heavily armed police and agents raided his operation and took him into custody.
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he's now indicted by a grand jury in georgia, along with four other men, on charges of murder, felony murder, and street gang activity. >> possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. >> reporter: the murder victim was melvin burnell, popular rapper using the name lil phat. he was murdered june of last year outside the hospital where his fiance was about to give birth. >> he was shot multiple times next to his car in the parking deck. >> reporter: he helped arrange the murder of the rapper, tracking the victim's vehicle for the accused trigger bend with a gps device. >> this defendant tracked the vehicle on over 11 occasions, provided that tracking information to the other two defendants who killed and shot the victim at the hospital. >> reporter: in court in atlanta, chulpayev's lawyer
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george plumided said his client was not involved in the murder, as an fbi informant he kept his agent and handler fully informed. >> everything goes through the handler. basically the handler delivered mani to fbi headquarters, and he debriefed him, told him everything he knew about it, the tracking devices. >> reporter: then the prosecutor said chulpayev had conned the fbi by lying about his involvement to his handler. >> he went into the fbi on july 30th, 2012, some six weeks after the victim was murdered and lied to the fbi. he lied to federal agents. he did not cooperate with the state and evidence will show that he has done nothing but lie about his involvement in this murder, so it is simply not true that he is a cooperating witness with the fbi or the state when it comes to this matter. >> reporter: adding to the intrigue, according to georgia authorities and the lawyer is the role of the fbi agent that
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was chulpayev's handler. chulpayev's lawyer says the agent asked for lavish gifts and cash from chulpayev, and tried to block local detectives investigating him in the murder case. >> reporter: so the fbi agent was obstructing the investigation of murder? >> that's my opinion and mani's as well. >> reporter: according to the lawyer, he asked for the best tickets to see miami heat basketball team play. and also asked said the lawyer for expensive watches, use of luxury cars, vip entrance to exclusive nightclubs, even $3500 in cash. >> he gave him cash. >> yes. >> gave him hotel rooms. >> yes. >> jewelry. >> yes. >> watches. >> yes. >> fancy cars. >> at least $100,000 cars. >> for the fbi agent. under the assurance they were for lawful law enforcement practices. >> reporter: the fbi take the allegations against the agent
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very seriously. the department of justice inspector general and fbi's own inspection division are both investigating, according to what officials told abc news in this statement. be assured that the fbi holds every one of our 36,000 employees to the highest standards. when an allegation of this conduct arises, it is taken seriously and addressed, the statement reads. it would hardly be the first time an fbi agent and informant have been accused of crossing the strict legal lines. most prominently, boston mob boss whitey bulger accused of giving gifts to fbi agents as they looked the other way when he allegedly killed rivals. >> that's part of the criminal justice system. there are thousands of people in witness protection program who were very serious criminals, and now they have new identities, new jobs, many turn their lives around. bad part is on occasion it doesn't work. i knew that mani chulpayev would be on the street after the cases
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were over. he was a player, a street guy. it is hard to take someone like that and say okay, you signed a cooperation agreement, now go out there and work in an office filing paper. it's just not in his blood. >> reporter: mani chulpayev says being an fbi informant had nothing to do with his life of luxury and fast cars, that he would have been better off serving his time in prison. >> i don't think i got a better end of the deal, being with the situation reversed, would have took my chances, probably would have got convicted, probably would have served my time and not lived the [bleep] life that i live now. >> reporter: why do you call it that. >> why do i call what? >> reporter: why is your life so objectionable now? >> one reason, me and you are sitting here talking, that's one reason. >> thanks to brian ross for that amazing story. up next, a world record setting stunt over 23,000 feet in the making. the great outdoors... ...and a great deal. thanks to dad.
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what do mount everest and a prom queen have in common? they are the center of the "nightline" feed frenzy. someone once asked british mountaineer why do you want to climb mount everest.
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because it's there, he answered famously. today we ask russian daredevil valery rozov why do you want to jump off there, because you can, and because no one has done a base jump this high. so why not? big congrats to valery. and good-bye for michele bachmann who announced today she's done with congress. the minnesota foster mom/tax lawyer/tea party idol is leaving the house at the end of her term next year. so unless she runs for president again, probably no more wide eyed magazine covers to anger fans and less fodder for comedians that love the way she turns a phrase. >> we


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